Address: Jongno 3 (sam) ga
Directions: From exit 15 of Jongno 3 (sam) ga, walk straight and take the first left at Arena. Then take the first right. The restaurant will be on your left, directly across the road from 7 Eleven. It’s opened only for dinner, and stays open till 6am in the morning, believe it or not.
Guide books and websites may give you all the wonderful tried and tested recommendations for authentic and good places to eat at, but perhaps the best way to experience the cuisine of a country is to eat where the locals do. We’ve passed this restaurant a couple of times while walking back to our hotel and it has always been very busy, and full of locals. Today, we went to the Green Tea Plantation in Boseong, and had practically nothing to eat for the entire day (the shop selling green tea bibimbap at the plantation that we were so looking forward to having was closed, so we had just some instant noodles from 7 Eleven for the whole day) and were absolutely starving, so this was the natural first choice for dinner.
Nobody speaks English in the restaurant, and the menu is printed only in Korean and mounted on a little signboard on the wall. After struggling for a few minutes with trying to read from the Anglicized pronunciation guide provided at the back of our Lonely Planet, we realized with great relief that our server could speak Mandarin! Thank God for our bilingual Singaporean education. So we ended up ordering a portion of marinated beef (galbi), marinated pork, and a bowl of cold noodles.
To summarise in 1 word: AWESOME. We were the only non-Koreans in the restaurant, and it was like we had stumbled upon a well kept secret. We were extremely well taken care of by all the servers, who literally wouldn’t stop bringing us more soup, or more lettuce, or more kimchi, or help tell us which was the best combination of garlic and sauce or rice to wrap in the lettuce. The hospitality was generous and seriously overwhelming.
Plus, the food was really good. The meats were extremely well marinated and contained just the right amount of fats to provide that wonderful caramelization when cooked over the hot coals.
The cold noodles were also extremely good. We’ve had this dish in Biwon in London, and weren’t blown away then. We really wanted to try it again in Korea, where we would hopefully get the real deal, and oh yes we did. The noodles were soft and silky smooth, and there was a lovely tangy flavour in the icy cold beef broth, which was the perfect companion dish to the smoky salty barbecued meats.
This is one place we will definitely be returning to have another meal at before we leave Korea. So far we’ve been having such a good time in Seoul that we have cancelled a night’s accommodation in Jeonju to remain in Seoul for more sightseeing and eating. Plus, the 3 hour train ride to Jeonju isn’t exactly our idea of a good time. So, with the additional day-ish in Seoul we’ll definitely be able to go back to this restaurant for another awesome carnivorous feast.